Cheerleaders vs. Challengers

Guest blogger, Natalie, is an athlete and a 30-something mom with two girls and a dude on the way. With a light heart and serious intentions, she explores what it means to push her limits, seek adventure and enjoy the best of life. You can check out her written work at Hello Day and get a taste of her life at @hellodaynatalie.

I find cheerleaders difficult to trust. Regardless of what’s happening in the game, they’re all smiles and Rah! Rah! Rah! After a while “Go Team Go!” starts sounding a little bit more like “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!” Cue side-eye.

The coach – now, that’s who I want to hear mic’ed. A partner vested in the work, effort and process. A voice that’s earned the right not only to cheer, but to challenge. Those of us committed to a journey deserve more than a cheerleader. We deserve a Challenger.

I trained for a half marathon last year. The solo long runs on Saturdays started to get lonely and one weekend I asked a friend (and specimen of an athlete) to join me. While I was really looking forward to her company, there was a part of me that was nervous to bring her into my training. This wasn’t just a long run, it was an important step in my journey to race day. And I just asked someone who knows me well and is aware of my strengths and weaknesses to join in. It felt vulnerable. We ran 10 miles at a fun, no pressure sort of pace. But even so, I was pooped. And in the homestretch, we’re talking less than half a mile from the parked car, I said:

“Let’s start to cool down and walk it out to the car.”

Her response was:

“No. We’re running the full 10 miles. Then we’ll cool down.”

Not, “Yeah, Girl! You ran a strong 9.5 miles.” No cheer. No mercy.

She didn’t let me cut it short because she knew it wouldn’t do my race any favors. She was committed to my goal, more committed than I was at the moment. And she finished the final 0.5 miles with me. A Challenger – just what I needed.

It’s hard to ignore the allegory between life and training. We all have a distance to go, a place to arrive. And there is no guarantee that the journey will be smooth, fun or easy – in fact, it won’t be. There are bumps, inconvenient bathroom breaks, messy snot rockets, cramps, uphill battles, downhill sprints and victories along the way. The challenge (emotional or physical) of it may overtake us at times. And other times the victory might be too sweet to keep to our self. For better or for worse, we finish stronger together. Because in both training and life, we need a trusted voice to push us harder when victory is near. We need each other.

I want Challengers by my side. Not just in fitness but in life. Because, “Go Team Go” is not what I need to hear when the rubber meets the road or the shit hits the fan. No. I need a Challenger by my side to remind me of who I am and who I am becoming.

BurnCycle is more than a cheerleader. They’re a coach invested in the work, effort and process - a Challenger through and through. And while their energy may rival any high school cheer squad, they’re about more than the chant. It’s not about winning, but about committing to more. It’s not about performance, but about becoming. Becoming more of who we are meant to be. And that is what I want to be pushed towards.